The Movie: Moonlight
The Director: Barry Jenkins
The Cast: Mahershala Ali, Alex R. Hibbert, Janelle Monáe, Naomie Harris, Ashton Sanders, Trevante Rhodes, and André Holland
The Story: A chronicle of the childhood, adolescence and burgeoning adulthood of a young black man growing up in a rough neighborhood of Miami.
Every so often, a movie comes along that reestablishes what the cinematic experience can be. Director Barry Jenkins does just that with a film that only cost about five million dollars to make yet leaves you feeling like it is nothing less than a priceless treasure. Adapted from a story by Tarell Alvin McCraney, Moonlight takes Hollywood's, and quite honestly America's, stereotypical version of what it means to be black in this country, turns it upside down, rips it apart, and shocks you with simple, honest reality. This is something you have to see for yourself because it is a very personal experience and not something you get told about.
As far as the story, I thought it was good although pretty basic. The main character, Chiron, is shown at three very pivotal points in his life and the three actors who portray him each give very strong, emotionally charged performances. What makes this movie work so well is the quality of the performances across the board which makes the story way more watchable than it should be. Don't get me wrong here, I liked the story and what makes it even more intriguing is who the people are and where they come from. Watching a story about learning to love and living with loss, emptiness, and emotional instability that is set in a drug riddled and decaying urban landscape is definitely a shock to the system and yet satisfying on so many levels.
None of the actors that populate the story would be considered to have starring roles although Naomie Harris, who plays Chiron's drug addict mother, is the most consistent presence and her story really ends up being the one thread that connects everything and everyone else. Harris, who you may know as Selena from 28 Days Later, as Tia Dalma from the Pirates of the Caribbean movies, or as Moneypenny from Skyfall and Spectre, the most recent Bond films, but it's this movie that might end up being the most prominent touchstone of her career. There are so many unexpected layers to her performance and what's even more impressive is how she has such a huge impact with very little screen time.
Moonlight is an achievement in film making that everyone should see at least once. Going in, you will be confident that you know what you are about to see but, by the end, you're perception of so many things will be shaken to its core. This is the type of movie that makes you think about and reconsider who you are and what you believe to be true about the world and that right there is what makes it such an essential cinematic experience.